Head of leading Libyan political party calls for unity

Story highlights

  • Libya's political parties need to form a consensus, a leading politician says
  • Mahmoud Jibril says all parties will have a chance to be part of a new start
  • Libya has struggled to emerge from the shadow of longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi
  • About 60% of voters took part in elections for 200-member parliament

The leader of the political coalition expected to win the first election in Libya in 42 years said Thursday that it is vital for Islamists, liberals and secularists to "sit around one table" and form a new government.

Mahmoud Jibril, head of the National Forces Alliance, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that consensus will help legitimize the government in a nation where the people seek a restoration of order.

"I think the biggest challenge right now is to convince our potential partners, especially the Islamist forces, that now it's time that we sit around one table and talk about one destiny that is in the interest of the Libyan people," he said from Tripoli. "It has nothing to do with who prevails in those elections or those who do not prevail."

Libya is unique among nations that have held elections after Arab Spring uprisings. Voters in the North African nation chose a more liberal coalition to lead, while voters in Egypt and Tunisia both opted for Islamist parties.

Jibril said the absence of a civic structure in Libya, which was dismantled by leader Moammar Gadhafi during his decades in power, means people of all political ideologies can be part of a new government and its 200-seat parliament.

A High Election Commission worker collects ballot boxes from different polling stations to prepare for the final counting at Maatiga airport in Tripoli on July 8, 2012.

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"It's an opportunity that all parties, all political forces can have a new start where all of them can participate and take part in the reestablishment of the state," he said.

Jibril, former prime minister of the National Transitional Council and one of the most influential politicians in Libya, would not say if he would seek a higher office in the new government.

    "What matters to me is the effectiveness of my role," he said. "If I can contribute to the national interests of my country, I will not hesitate. But if there is a role where I cannot do anything within that role, then I will not take part."

    He suggested that being an aide to the president or prime minister might suit him. A consultant can have as much influence on those offices, he said.

    Some critics have said the U.S.-educated Jibril is too secular.

    "I am a true Muslim, but I have nothing to do with ideology," he said.

    According to the Project on Middle East Democracy, the National Forces Alliance is a coalition of 58 political parties that campaigned as a "more liberal, progressive option." The party's platform focused heavily on economic issues, according to the Project on Middle East Democracy.

    Jibril said the message resonated with voters, who just want some stability and a chance to start a new life.

    The National Forces Alliance on Thursday led in 12 of 15 districts, according to results posted on the Libyan elections commission website.

    About 3,500 candidates ran for the new parliament, and turnout was about 60% of the country's 2.8 million registered voters, election commission Chairman Nuri Khalifa Al-Abbar said this week.

    It will take weeks or even months for the winners to form an effective coalition government, said Fadel Lamen, president of the American-Libyan Council.

    The parliamentary vote is a litmus test for Libya in the post-Gadhafi era. Balloting took place 17 months after political demonstrations against Gadhafi broke out in two Libyan cities. Those demonstrations spread, leading to a civil war, NATO airstrikes and Gadhafi's death by a bullet to the head in October.

    While Gadhafi's death ended much of the violence, unrest continues in parts of the country, particularly the south and the west, and the government has not been able to contain the militias that helped overthrow Gadhafi.

    Once seated, the national assembly will appoint a transitional government and craft a constitution.

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